So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

When I became pregnant with my first child after years of trying and lots of prayers, I had a picture in mind of how the birth would go. My water would break, and my husband and I would rush to the hospital. I would call my parents on the way to share the joyous news and they would come to meet their first grandchild, bringing along gifts and balloons. It would be a celebration.

But life has a way of pulling the rug out from under you sometimes. At 24 weeks gestation, before I had even developed a noticeable baby bump, I went into labor. There was no warning. I had been the doctor for a check-up four days before, and I appeared to be having a healthy pregnancy. So, when the labor started I mistook the cramping feeling for gas pains. It was a mild discomfort, nothing at all like the contractions I had read about.

Hours later, the pain intensified all at once, going from a twinge to torture in seconds. My body broke out in goosebumps and I doubled over in pain. My husband and I went to the hospital immediately. But it was too late. I was dilated three centimeters and my contractions were coming every four minutes. The doctor tried to stop it, but my daughter was born three hours later, far too soon.

There were so many emotions that night, as I got my first glimpse of this unbelievably tiny human I already loved so much. I was terrified, hopeful, shocked, and guilty.

Some people couldn’t understand my guilt. To my knowledge, I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. I was a healthy non-smoker in my late twenties who had good prenatal care. The doctor didn’t know why this had happened, so how could I shoulder the blame?

All those words made sense. The logic was there, but it couldn’t change how I felt. Women have been having babies since the beginning of mankind. Billions of people have done this. Yet, I failed. My body betrayed me and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was somehow my fault. If not something I had done wrong during pregnancy, then perhaps some sick sort of karma. Was my child being punished for some character flaw I possessed? Had I pushed myself too hard at work? Could this have been stopped if I had come to the hospital sooner?

So many questions and no real answers.

I had a wonderful and strong support system during my daughter’s 96-day NICU stay. My family, my husband, and plenty of family friends made themselves available to help in any way possible. This was great, but no one could truly understand the guilt or why I couldn’t overcome it. I heard a lot the same phrases over and over.

“You did nothing wrong.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“You can’t blame yourself.”

“Don’t feel guilty.”

That last one was my husband’s typical response. Bless his heart, he was trying to be helpful, but even he couldn’t understand. I didn’t want the heavy burden of guilt, but I also couldn’t just stop the feeling. I felt that no one could understand.

The feeling of my empty womb while I stood beside the incubator my daughter was now living in, with a tube shoved down her throat because she couldn’t breathe on her own yet, was unique to me. I was meant to be carrying her, my body should have been a safe place for her to grow. Instead, it had expelled her and now she was forced to endure pain.

I imagined that the world was cold and bright to her, and that the surprise I felt when she was born so early was nothing compared to her shock at suddenly being thrust into this life before she was even close to ready. In my heart, I felt that I was responsible for this.

Leaving her in the hospital didn’t help these feelings. The most unnatural, gut-wrenching experience I’ve ever had was leaving my precious child behind when I went home. Life couldn’t just continue normally while she fought to survive.

I wanted to be at the hospital constantly. I felt that she needed me near and it was the least I could do for her. Being there, even if I was just sitting next to the incubator while she slept, was the only thing I found that relieved some of these guilty feelings.

I couldn’t accurately explain this to anyone. I would only get more positive responses about my own worth that were meant to make me feel better. While I appreciated the love behind those attempted affirmations, they weren’t what I needed. I needed to take care of my child in any way that I could. I needed to hold her at every opportunity because I believed the skin-to-skin contact helped her. I wanted her to learn to breathe by laying against my chest and feeling the steady rhythm of my own inhales and exhales. I wanted her to see me there every day and it didn’t matter that she wouldn’t remember it. In my mind, I was showing her that I was her mother, not the nurses, doctors, or physical therapists. Me.

I think I was trying to redeem myself.

Somewhere along the way, I guess I succeeded. I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually I realized that the negative, self-blaming thoughts that had weighed on my mind were fading. I was slowly moving past it as my baby got healthier. I just needed to do what felt right to me and focus on my child. Some people tried to get me to spend less time in the hospital, thinking it was unhealthy for me. But they were wrong. The NICU wasn’t bad for me or my baby.

It healed us both.


You may also like:

Dear NICU Mom, You Were Chosen To Be the Mother of a Miracle

12 Signs That You’re a NICU Parent

To the Nurses Who Care For So Much More Than Our Sick Babies, Thank You

Want more stories of love, family and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!

Courtney Mack

My name is Courtney Mack and I am a stay-at-home with two toddlers. My first child was a preemie and my second was a wonderful surprise. They are both amazing gifts from God. My husband and I have been blessed. 

What I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me About Gender Disappointment

In: Baby, Motherhood
Pregnant couple holding boy or girl sign

I was in the corner of my closet hiding behind my wedding dress and every formal I’ve ever owned. It was dark, stuffy, and felt like a good place to hide. I’d just found out I was having a boy, and I was devastated in ways I didn’t think possible and was trying to hide what I was feeling from the world around me.  What kind of mother isn’t completely enamored with her baby-to-be? Did this make me a monster? I should have been happy. After all, I was having a healthy baby. That’s like winning the lottery. Instead, I...

Keep Reading

The Conversation We’re Forgetting To Have About Birth

In: Baby, Marriage, Motherhood
Woman having a baby man holding her hand

My husband lay sleeping, his head resting on a fluffy, down-stuffed pillow in our hotel room. His bag was packed neatly, ESPN was playing quietly in the background, and he had unopened snacks at his disposal on the end table. Our hotel phone rang, and my husband groggily answered, ”Yes? Oh, sorry. Yeah, we’ll keep it down. Sorry.” He hung up and found me miserable and shaky in the shower, the thin shower curtain clinging to my legs.  “Steph, we got a noise complaint. You have to keep it down!” he whispered. This is not how I expected labor to...

Keep Reading

Bathtime Washes Away the Struggles of the Day

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler

It’s 7 p.m., which means bathtime at our house. I close the drain and fill the tub with warm water. I pump Johnson’s baby soap—the water and soap swirl together and form bubbles. The bubbles dance on top of the water, just waiting to cleanse my baby boy. I toss in your foam alphabet letters, Mr. Shark, and Mr. Penguin.  I place you in the bath and lather baby soap in my hands and give you a soapy mohawk. You are barely one and still my baby, but your four fat teeth make you look older. You chew on the...

Keep Reading

This May Be the Last Time I See Those Two Pink Lines

In: Baby, Motherhood

My little caboose, I’ve just finished staring at the two pink lines. It’s not the first time. In fact, I’ve done this twice before, and each time, I am filled with the same disbelief, gratitude, and pure joy. But something is a little different this time. Unless God has different plans for us, this may be the last time I see those pink lines. And that realization makes me want to hold onto all of the last firsts we will experience together with all my might. The two pink lines. The first time we hear your precious heartbeat. RELATED: Dear...

Keep Reading

Nothing Prepared Me To Be a Medical Mom

In: Baby, Motherhood
Baby boy sitting in mom's lap

I never saw it coming. The hours spent at doctor appointments, the coordination between specialists, the adding and subtracting of prescriptions—I never saw any of it coming.  I had a healthy pregnancy. Baby had a strong heartbeat at every appointment, and the anatomy scan showed an energetic, growing babe. There were no indicators that my water would break prematurely, that we would experience time in the NICU. Nothing hinted toward a hidden genetic condition or brain malformation that would complicate our child’s care. Nothing prepared me to be a medical mom. It was something that came fast and furious. Something...

Keep Reading

To My Firstborn: A New Baby May Divide My Attention But Not My Love

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood

Sweet babe, have you heard the news? You’re going to be a big sibling! Our family is growing, and there will be a new, squishy baby to love on and to welcome home.  This baby will be a little different from your baby doll. This baby won’t need you to feed them toy carrots or make them beds of blankets. But, they will definitely need your sweet kisses and lullabies. It’s made my heart melt watching how loving and attentive you are, and I know you’ll be ready for this new role as a big sibling.  It will be beautiful,...

Keep Reading

Everything Feels Wrong During Pregnancy After Loss

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman with baby sitting outside on blanket, color photo

To the woman who is pregnant after a loss, I see you. I know this should be such an exciting time in your life, but you have been cheated of being able to feel that way again. It is so unfair. I see you trying so hard to not get ahead of yourself after you receive that positive test result. You want to feel happiness and excitement, but you force yourself to be cautious just in case. I know you are trying to protect your heart. I recognize that you are over-analyzing every cramp, pull, and tug you feel. You...

Keep Reading

The Newborn Nights Feel As Endless As My Love For You

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother sleeping next to infant, black-and-white photo

In the dark, the moments stretch too long between sleep. All night we listen for your calls: puckering cherub lips, chirps, whines, and wails. Three weeks, now, without a full night’s rest. Three weeks since this whole ordeal began. At first, we tried trading shifts in the night. In the orange and teal baby room, dim and quiet, three hours long and lonely—I thought of birth. How invincible I felt. I tried to make the strength translate. I can get through this sleepless night, I told myself. I can bear your endless feeding and howls. I can. Later, we were...

Keep Reading

I Will Forever Carry Both Life and Death

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Infant lying in bed next to matching empty bed, color photo

I have experienced the miracle of feeling life move within me. I have felt the pain and devastation of carrying a life I’d never have the chance to meet. Nothing prepared me for the bittersweet feeling of experiencing both at the same time. Celebrating the beating heart of one baby while mourning the stillness of the other. Wishing to not see a reminder of what you’ve lost but knowing that would be detrimental to what you still have. RELATED: Twin Loss Splits a Mother’s Heart in Two Catching glimpses as your ultrasound tech tries to quickly zoom past to not cause...

Keep Reading

How Do You Know If You’re Meant to Have Another Baby?

In: Baby, Motherhood

“I think I want just one more baby.” I stood at my infant’s changing table peering into his sweet eyes. Another set of eyes turned up to me from the diaper pail, wide and knowing. “I just don’t know about that,” my husband sent up as he held his breath tying off the bag full of dirty diapers. “I just feel like I have a lot of love left to give,” I responded, and he just looked at me, but I knew what he was thinking because I was thinking it too. I know I have a lot of love...

Keep Reading
Mother Holding Baby

5 Truths Every New Mom Needs to Hear


Encouragement for the early days

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids


Proven techniques to build REAL connections